Terroni restaurant TorontoOn Saturday, I had lunch with my wife, son and a few friends at Terroni restaurant in downtown Toronto. Terroni is one of my wife’s favorite places to eat in the city; they have three locations in Toronto and one in L.A.

I love it too, since the food is authentic Italian and the restaurant on Adelaide, where we were, is inside the historic York County Court House, which served as the city court from 1852 to 1900. Be sure to use the restrooms as they (as well as the wine cellars) are in the original jail cells downstairs.

We all sat down to lunch and ordered our food. My friend ordered the Spaghetti in Canna a Mare (seafood pasta). When the server brought the food over, my friend asked for cheese on his pasta. The server said no, they don’t serve cheese on the seafood pasta. I get it…I’m half-Italian and have heard my dad say that you never put cheese on seafood pasta countless times.

And the menu does state: “Spaghetti in Canna a Mare [comes with] fresh clams and mussels, calamari, scallops and tiger shrimp, light tomato sauce (this pasta is not served with parmigiano to highlight the delicate flavours of the shellfish; following ancient Italian tradition … Enjoy!)” But still…if someone wants to put cheese or ketchup on their dish, it’s their prerogative.

My philosophy is, “To each his own.” If my buddy wants cheese on his Spaghetti in Canna a Mare, then he should be able to have it—especially when he’s paying $22 a plate. I understand the chef’s desire to serve authentic food but I was taken aback when the server adamantly refused to bring my friend cheese. When she said no the first time, we all kind of laughed but when we realized she was serious, an awkward silence fell over the table. I asked if I could have some cheese on the side of my Tonnarelli alla Norcina, which had Italian black truffle shavings, homemade spicy sausage, pecorino and garlic. (I wanted it on the side so I could just give it to my buddy.) As our server started grating cheese all over the top of the pasta, I asked her again to please put it on the side. She said, “Sorry, we can’t put the cheese on the side.”

Now, if I’m paying $25 for a plate of pasta (which admittedly, is darn good!), and I can’t get a little cheese on the side, I find that insulting. I briefly considered leaving but my wife would have been embarrassed and my buddy Matt is super nice and said, “No worries, I think it’s cool.”

I grew up in southern Connecticut and our local grocery store, Stew Leonard’s, has a quote engraved in stone at the entrance, which reads “Our Policy: Rule 1: The customer is always right! Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 1.”

I’m not sure if that should always be the case since there are some crazy customers out there but it’s a good rule for businesses that are in the service industry. The food is so good and my wife loves it but I’m not sure if I would go back because of their unfriendly policy.

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you before?

TIP: If you do go to Terroni on Adelaide Street in Toronto, don’t park at the closest parking lot. They charge $15 for an hour or more. If you download the free app Best Parking, it will show you nearby parking lots for just $5.


19 Comments On "Customer Always Right at Terroni Restaurant?"
  1. David Miller|

    I refuse to pay for parking when dining., If they want my dining business then they can pay for my parking or give me a free parking voucher.

  2. Tony|

    That’s the kind of thing that makes me want to go to the restaurant. Real Italian, as in the kind I get in various places in Italy is to be treasured. Asking for cheese or anything else on a dish that should not have it is kind of like telling the chef how to cook. The menu says it does not come with cheese – end of story.

  3. Gary|

    My opinion? I’ve been in fine steak restaurants where the wait staff discourages cooking their steaks beyond medium. I’ve even heard them tell my sister that her request for “well done” ruins both the flavor and the texture. But, for my sister, it’s either well done or nothing. By all means, discourage the customer from ruining the chef’s creation. Even an adamant discouragement wouldn’t be too much. But, in the end, they HAVE to give the customer what they want. I wonder what would have happened if you and your friend had refused to eat your meals unless they brought you cheese on the side and refused to pay for those meals? Then would they have backed down?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Agreed. I’ve wondered too.

  4. Icarus|

    The customer is not always right
    If someone wants to put cheese /ketchup etc over their food it’s upto them .. but it’s not right. It’s also insulting the chef

  5. Lisa|

    With regards to the cheese and the pasta,; an Italian restaurant in Italy would do ANYTHING to make the customer happy, even if it means putting cheese on pasta that doesn’t typically get topped with cheese. They believe that everyone should be comfortable and happy.

  6. MD Kennedy|

    I find their approach unacceptable. I live in Toronto and there are TONS of wonderful Italian restaurants (although I sooooo miss Scott Conant’s Scarpetta). When you return let me know and I’ll suggest a few that will let you have your food the way you want it.

  7. K. Campbell|

    I went through something similar in Palermo, Sicily about 6 years ago with my girlfriend. She ordered pasta with sea food and then asked for Parmigiano on top of the pasta. Other restaurant customers were yelling at her (in a good natured way, I might ad), the owner was also yelling at her about the cheese on seafood request. At the end of the day, she got her cheese.

    I think the customer is King. They should get cheese, if they want it.

  8. Alice|

    I would politely reply that it is my preference to have cheese and although the food is good, this will be my last visit to this restaurant.

  9. Sorya Ingrid|

    Hey Jonny,
    You’ve hit on a HUGE hot button here.
    My son’s favourite app is arancini and one restaurant in Toronto would not give him tomato sauce with it. Claimed it was their special ‘nonna’ recipe which has some tomato inside but they don’t serve sauce with it. It’s an Italian restaurant so we knew they had sauce! We raised a stink with the waiter who was terrified to deal with the issue ( probably not the first time! ) so the manager came and stood by the decision! Made a point of making us feel like Phillistines! We cancelled our mains and have been telling everybody about the story so they boycott the restaurant in question: Nodo in the Junction, West end of Toronto.

  10. Caroll|

    Suggestions from staff are always welcome, especially when you are provided with their reasoning why. However, the bottom line is if you are in the hospitality or restaurant business (and most other businesses), the customer should always be able to be served what he/she wants with their meal and always be able to request how they would prefer it to be cooked. The customer is always right and the restaurant should be gracious towards all customers–regardless of the meal price. Everyone should have manners. I love Italian food and would not go to the restaurant in your article after what happened to you.

  11. Marla|

    I went through a range of thought while reading this.i actually now think the “the customer is always right” urgency has become a byproduct of American entitlement.

  12. Kathy Millard|

    So sorry you had this unpleasant experience. It is always nice to have you in Toronto- I am forever hoping you will find a fabulous deal for us.

    The zombie philosophy of no change we are authentic hit me at Terroni at Yonge and Price street once. I asked fir something to be removed ( not to be added) from the entree for dietary reasons. They refused. I left

  13. Mike|

    I have a hunch that the waitress has an attitude and a control complex. Why didn’t you ask to speak to the manager or the owner? They probably are more attuned to the bottom line. I’m guessing they would have deferred to your reasonable request for a little cheese on the side.

  14. kathy millard|

    To clarify: this is not a customer is always right or wrong issue. This is a paying customer refusing to be served. How could this possibly be tolerated for some eccentricity of the owner spouted by a waitress. So sad you had to go through this for a spoonful of cheese!

  15. Anonymous|

    You used your blog to post a bad review about not getting cheese? tacky

    1. TXCOMT|

      It’s his blog…get over it.

  16. Chuck Lee|

    Your server should have advised his/her manager on duty and then he/she should have properly addressed your friend’s requests or concerns. Cheese or no cheese is really irrelevant. It is the manager’s job to oversee your entire dining experience and to make sure all is well.

  17. Matt|

    Makes we want to visit and take my own grated Parmesan, just for kicks.

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